Amy Black extends Muscle Shoals legacy

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"You want people to know about Muscle Shoals the way they know about Stax and Motown," says singer Amy Black.

When she was growing up, Amy Black spent a lot of time in the Muscle Shoals, Ala., area.

"I went to visit my grandparents there constantly," the Missouri native recalls from her new home in Nashville. "I just have a ton of memories, really good memories, from my times down there."

Despite all those visits to northern Alabama - she also lived there for two years before her family moved to Boston when she was 15 - Black had little knowledge of Muscle Shoals' rich musical history. Now, as a late-blooming singer-songwriter with an appealing Bonnie-Raitt-meets-Mary-Chapin-Carpenter style, the 43-year-old Black is extending the legacy with her new album, The Muscle Shoals Sessions.

Recorded at the FAME studios and featuring keyboardist Spooner Oldham, a longtime stalwart of the scene, the album finds Black offering terrific versions of some of the vintage soul and R&B numbers recorded in Muscle Shoals, such as Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On" and Mel and Tim's "Starting All Over Again," as well as Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody," the Black Keys' "Tighten Up," and the old spiritual "You Gotta Move," inspired by the Rolling Stones version on Sticky Fingers.

"It's so amazing to me that the Rolling Stones came to Sheffield, Alabama, and recorded music right across from where my whole family is buried," Black says. "It just cracks me up."

The album, which grew out of a 2013 EP, also includes three Black originals that fit in seamlessly. She is performing the album's songs in a show billed as a "Muscle Shoals Music revue," and for the Philadelphia performance she will share vocal duties with Boston rocker Sarah Borges.

Besides reconnecting her with one aspect of her past and, in a way, bringing her full circle, Black says the project has also had another profound impact on her.

"I think I'm tapping into the more soulful side of my voice," says Black, who didn't pursue music full-time until she was 35.

She's also happy to be part of the renewed interest in Muscle Shoals, spurred by the 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals.

"You want people to know about Muscle Shoals the way they know about Stax and Motown," Black says. " . . . I feel like the little role I'm playing is to continue to help educate people and also help them to love and appreciate the music that was recorded at Muscle Shoals at that time. . . . It's exciting to be part of something that's bigger than me."


Muscle Shoals Music Revue, featuring Amy Black and Sarah Borges, at 8 p.m. Friday at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. Tickets: $10 and $12. Information: 215-222-1400, worldcafelive.com.